By Olivia Overman
What started in 1982 as Prince William Clean Community Council, an organization helping encourage litter cleanup in the community, has become one of the driving forces behind education and action to keep Prince William clean and beautiful! Thirty years later, this simple clean-up effort has flourished into a nonprofit environmental organization, Keep Prince William Beautiful, an affiliate of the nationally recognized organization Keep America Beautiful.
Pride in Our Community
“KPWB was established as an organization that focused heavily on litter eradication and prevention through individual clean-up events. We still carry that torch; however, we now administer many community-wide programs that encourage community litter and recycling efforts as well as beautification efforts throughout
Prince William County,” said Aleta Daniels, Executive Director of KPWB.
Some of the key programs administered throughout the community include:
Adopt-a-Spot – This program allows for people or organizations to adopt almost any place in the community, from school playgrounds to library sites, parks and residential common areas. Adoptees maintain their chosen spot and keep it free of litter and debris for a period of two years, and, in return, a sign is installed by the spot featuring their name. Cleanup takes approximately two to three hours, with nine cleanups required for the two-year period. KPWB provides all the materials and training necessary to
maintain the spot.
Beautification – For this program, KPWB works with the community to identify public areas in the community that have been neglected and need attention. Beautification activities last two to three hours and may include painting, planting, sanding, weeding, mulching and collecting debris. People are encouraged to join the beautification efforts “by attending outreach events such as Prince William Recycles Day, community festivals and fairs, and partnering with other great environmental nonprofits in the area,” said Daniels.
Community Cleanup – Keeping the community clean and aesthetically pleasing is important for the people who live in the community but is also important to encourage growth in the county. KPWB provides all materials needed to clean up a community including gloves, grabbers, trash bags, level 3 safety vests, first aid kits, volunteer giveaways, water, snacks, landfill vouchers and litter education/safety training. The organization can also provide landfill vouchers to allow the contents of a community dumpster to be disposed of for free at Prince William County’s Sanitary Landfill. Information about the county’s free Dumpster Days is also provided on the KPWB website.
Educational Outreach – In keeping with the organization’s mission to encourage community litter, recycling and beautification efforts, KPWB offers education to groups, schools and organizations in the county. “For kids, depending on the age group, we might talk about different materials and whether or
not they’re recyclable. We also discuss water quality, specifically the effects stormwater has on our water quality. For adults, we answer a lot of questions about the recycling process and why communities are making changes to their recycling programs (for example, taking glass out of curbside pickup),” said Daniels.
Why Are These Programs Important?
According to Keep America Beautiful, the presence of litter can decrease property values by 7% and increase crime. Adopt-a-Spots help ensure that communities stay clean, remain safe and inspire people to be environmental stewards. KPWB collects data from the clean-ups and beautification programs that occur
in the community. They then analyze the data and report it to the county and state. This helps the county develop and enforce policies to ensure areas stay clean.
When asked why this organization and its mission are important overall, Daniels said, “Litter has a larger effect on a community than many people realize. Its presence can decrease the value of homes, decrease revenue for businesses and encourage more littering, because people think that since someone else littered, it’s not a big deal if they litter, too.”
A clean, litter-free community means that its residents take pride in the place where they live, work and play. The more pride people have, the stronger their efforts in keeping their community clean. It’s a positive-feedback loop that builds upon itself.
Additionally, KPWB encourages families who don’t already recycle to start. The organization also encourages families and individuals to consider incorporating other environmentally sustainable efforts
into their lives, such as conserving water and bringing reusable grocery bags when shopping.
The Future Can Be Beautiful
Speaking about the organization he is part of, KPWB President Benjamin Hazekamp said, “It has been my pleasure to serve for several years on the board for Keep Prince William Beautiful. During my time, I’ve witnessed the transformation of communities, not just in terms of a cleaner neighborhoods, but closer neighbors. Our strength comes from our volunteers and community partners joining together to create beautiful communities to do beautiful things, and we are excited to be a part of that.”
KPWB is very much a volunteer-driven organization and is always looking for new groups to partner with. They also seek interns and board members to help the organization continue to educate and implement goals to enhance the community.
Olivia Overman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer for both online and print organizations. She earned an M.A. in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University, Washington, D.C.